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TASTES LIKE STRAWBERRIES (article first published : 2005-11-5)

Sphamandla Mzobe and Mbongeni Ngubane have much reason to be grateful to well-known South African actress Dieketseng Mnisi. It was at her insistence that their play Tastes Like Strawberries was brought to the notice of award-winning Johannesburg actor and director, Seputla Sebogodi. Having seen their play at the Stop Crime Drama Festival when she appeared in Durban several years back, she urged Seputla to see their work. Acting commitments didnít allow him to visit Durban so at her own expense she sent Sphamandla and Mbongeni to Johannesburg where they worked on the play with him.

Dieketseng Mnisiís faith in the young menís talent has borne fruit and the result is an excellent production now running for a short season in the Playhouse Loft as part of the Playhouse New Stages.

Sphamandla and Mbongeniís script is based on the true story of an acquaintance (Majozi) who killed his wife (Jwah) in a fit of jealousy and made it look like suicide. Acquitted of any crime because of lack of evidence, he was guilt-ridden for the rest of his life and eventually died of a heart attack.

Sounds like heavy stuff? Not in the least. Seputla Sebogodi has created a compelling drama which exists on many levels and moods. While the ďcrime doesnít payĒ message is loud and strong Ė the play involves much humour, most of this coming from Sphamandla Mzobe who plays Dlamini, Majoziís friend from childhood.

Majozi is played by Zakhele Mabaso while Phindi Xaba appears as Jwah. The title comes from the promise Majozi makes Jwah when he is courting her that when she marries him, her life will change to the point where water and kisses will taste like strawberries.

The three-hander features excellent performances from the highly versatile cast, all three giving to the production their own individual qualities. Mostly appearing as a tormented and infirm man who looks back on his life, Zakhele Mabaso brings much convincing stature to the role. Sphamandla Mzobeís mercurial and ever-impecunious alcoholic Dlamini is a fine foil for his solidity. They have some wonderful scenes together.

Phindi is alternately adorable and endearing as the young Jwah or strident and commanding as the teacher of the young adolescents. This last was an excellent scene as the students taunted their superior. The flashes to the past and back to the present happen swiftly and one change of scene was the fastest Iíve ever seen!

Tastes Like Strawberries was the first play by Sphamandla Mzobe and Mbongeni Ngubane and the dramatic quality of writing is very high. I look forward to their next effort.

Tastes Like Strawberries has two more performances tomorrow (November 5) at 15h00 and 19h30 in the Playhouse Loft. Tickets R20. Book through Computicket or 031 369 9555. Ė Caroline Smart




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